Emmitt Thomas: Chiefs rebounded from Super Bowl I loss

Mike Popovich

At first, Emmitt Thomas did not understand the magnitude of Super Bowl I.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was not even full when the Kansas City rookie and his teammates walked onto the field to face Green Bay. There was no apathy among the players, especially the older ones. Thomas remembers seeing tears coming out of their eyes.

“Some other rookies and I, we were just happy to be there,” Thomas said.

It wasn’t a happy day for the Chiefs. The 35-10 spanking administered by the Packers was a major blow for the teammates Thomas saw crying before the game. The mood on the plane heading home was no different.

“I said, ‘What are they worried about? We’ll be back there next year,’ ” Thomas said. “But I didn’t realize how hard it was to get back.

“And it was another three years before we ever got back.”

When the Chiefs got back, they were better than ever.

The team’s 1969 world championship run was arguably Kansas City’s finest sports moment. The Chiefs beat the reigning champion New York Jets and Oakland on the road in the AFL playoffs and upset prohibitive favorite Minnesota in Super Bowl IV.

Thomas intercepted a pass in the 13-6 victory over the Jets and picked off two more in the 17-7 win over the Raiders. He returned his second interception against the Raiders 62 yards and set up a short field goal with just under five minutes left.

The Chiefs were not as huge an underdog against the Vikings as the Jets were when they faced Baltimore in Super Bowl III. Still, few gave Kansas City much of a chance. Seeing the AFL Jets stun the NFL Colts a year earlier was extra incentive for the Chiefs. So was the way they were taken down by Green Bay in football’s first Super Bowl.

“Our training and regiment and the seriousness we carried into our practice that week was far greater than it was when we were out in California getting ready to play the Green Bay Packers,” Thomas said. “When we went to New Orleans, Hank (head coach Hank Stram) had those hotels sealed down. Everybody was in there for business, and he had TVs in everybody’s room where we could watch film.

“We were so embarrassed from the first time, we definitely were going to give everything we had to try to win.”

The Chiefs jumped out to a 16-0 halftime lead and gave themselves a little breathing room in the third quarter when Otis Taylor caught a 46-yard touchdown pass from Len Dawson. Thomas intercepted his fourth pass in the playoffs in the final minutes as Kansas City ran out the clock on a 23-7 victory.

“We all said, ‘If we ever got back, we’ll win it,’ ” Thomas said. “I was just so happy we were fortunate enough to get back with 90 percent of the team that lost to Green Bay and to win for the city of Kansas City.”

The Repository